December's Insight from Chris Turner


We end the year in a position not dissimilar to last year; with BIDs continuing to work hard to protect, celebrate, and make the most of our towns and cities, and government not helping us in any great fashion.

The Covid pandemic continues to affect us all, we were presented with a new Plan B from government at the beginning of last week and many BIDs voiced their unhappiness at the plans. We responded to government which included our usual group of professional and trade bodies and made clear that we felt that this Plan B is a further disaster for many parts of the high street. The food and beverage industry was starting to recover well from the lockdown and was planning for Christmas to be a vital part of its reopening. The government’s delays in announcing this, the lack of financial support for the food and beverage industry, and the lack of certainty about office parties, markets and the use of facemasks has been a tragedy. The further lack of clarity on “working from home” is making the situation even worse. We absolutely need some assistance for those industries affected, and we need the help now. We know that there are still unspent monies in the ARG pot; it should be made available now to allow BIDs to help businesses through this time. It is clear that we need to learn to live with Covid-19, it will be with us forever in some guise, and we need sensible plans to allow that permanent relationship, not the current stop-start madness. 

It has been a very busy month for BID ballots, following the fifteen last month! We congratulate a further sixteen successful BIDs this month: Erdington, Chichester, Welwyn Garden City, Caterham Valley, Preston, Northfield, MyMiltonKeynes, Herefordshire County, Harley Street Area, Northallerton, Plymouth Waterfront, King's Road, Ipswich Central, Halifax, Weston, and Cambourne. We expect St Peters Derby on Friday 17th.  It was particularly good to see Herefordshire County, Harley Street and Kings Road as new Term 1 BIDs.

The British BIDs Annual Survey is now available which looks back over the 12 months since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. However, we have now been able to add these latest results to give us an overall figure for all ballots in the last 12 months and the data is pretty impressive. We have had 104 ballots in the last 12 months, sadly have lost 7, of which one went back to ballot and subsequently won. Therefore, we have gained twelve new BIDs. We were concerned last year, as the pandemic and the lockdown hit us all, that ballots would have poor turnouts and poor outcomes. This has not been the case. If we look back over the past nineteen months since the first lock down in March 2020, there have been a total of 116 ballots and turnout for the 109 BIDs that succeeded had been at an average of 41.7%, and the highest was 82%, with a further two at 69%. This is a powerful message about how our levy payers see the value of BIDs.

In these final months of the year, there are various policy issues emerging from government. One strand is on governance and ESG. Many will know that the government is finalising an overhaul of corporate governance, and although most BIDs are far too small to be affected, it suggests an emerging trend for the future, because within those changes is a suggestion that the Companies Act amendments will require mandatory climate-related financial disclosures by large companies - more information here. There is a continuing debate on the growing importance of ESG in these new governance controls. There is a view that while the requirements may be disheartening, challenging and potentially costly, not least in terms of management time, there are opportunities. Though their appeal to employees and investors alike, particularly those of Generations Y and Z, for increasing the talent pool and value of companies who both do, and are seen to be doing, the ‘right thing’.

The Business rates Revaluation 2023 is well underway. At revaluation, the Valuation Office Agency adjusts the rateable value of business properties to reflect changes in the property market and they are now contacting businesses to request rental information. This data helps them to maintain up-to-date records which reflect how the value of the property has changed. This will have a major impact on many BIDs across the country, depending on which ratings list they opted to use for their current term, and their business plans for future ballots.  Many BIDs have always been concerned over the impact of central rates. These are those businesses that the Secretary of State holds on a central list which, they believe by their nature are unsuitable for including in local lists (e.g. utility networks). The central rating list can be viewed on the Valuation Office Agency’s website. Hereditaments appearing on the central rating list do not appear on local rating lists and the business rates bill is paid to the Secretary of State and then passed to the Treasury. These hereditaments thus neither vote nor pay a levy. The government has been reviewing them and you can find more information here. The government say that they will make final decisions in the autumn, in light of the responses to this consultation and discussions with the ratepayers concerned. Then soon after, any necessary changes to the regulations will have effect from 1 April 2023.

BIDs and British BIDs have been very involved in the varying changes in planning matters over the past twelve months. We responded forcefully to the first round of proposals, and then worked with other partners in a further response on the reopening of the debate following the appointment of Michael Gove as Secretary of State. We stressed that the expanded use of Permitted Development Rights removed one of the levers local authorities had at their disposal to shape their local area and has, therefore, disempowered local leaders and communities. We also asked that within the levelling up white paper the Secretary of State set out, how the department will support local authorities to develop their own renewal plans and the resources to enable their implementation. We all agree on the importance of thriving town and city centres and the need to empower local leaders and communities. There is a terrific long read from Professor Cathy Parker on levelling up on the IPM site and the parliamentary broadcast is here.

The government review of Local Enterprise Partnerships [LEPs] is important for many BIDs, and it is expected to lead to significant changes. The terms of reference for the initiative are very broad, allowing the review to consider the form, functions and geographies of Local Enterprise Partnerships with the objective of enabling these to be amended to better support Central Government policy objectives. The government plans to take account of the views of businesses, local authorities, LEPs and other stakeholders in deciding what changes to make. One element which will be considered is whether LEP geographies are effective, with speculation that Ministers may wish to reduce the number of LEPs. The review will also consider "funding models" ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review which is expected to include information on the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Again, BIDs might need to be aware of the plans and possible impacts the review might have on their working. More information here.

British BIDs continues apace and the Certificate in BID Management [CiBM] is back in February 2022, with places available to book now. The CiBM has helped the development of over 110 students from over 80 locations since its inception. With an additional session focussed on Financial Control, Class 1 of 2022 will be held virtually to remain accessible to BIDs in all areas of the UK. At the same time, our Diploma in BID Leadership [DiBL] Class 1 of 2022 will take place in-person, in London, whilst Class 2 will be held virtually via Zoom. As ever do please contact us if you need more information

And finally, do have a very Happy Christmas.

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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